Monday, March 14, 2011

The X-Files: Christmas Carol (5.6)

This is an especially somber episode, lacking in the sci-fi spectacle of other conspiracy episodes, but forgoing that for a mournful, human quality. Mulder only briefly appears, allowing us to see Scully completely out of her comfort zone of the FBI 'bubble', and it's pretty uncomfortable at points because of this. Scully herself is an emotionally withdrawn person, alienating herself from the rest of her family who are all happy and peaceful as Christmas approaches. There's a quirky irony to the fact that while her relations get gifts under the Christmas tree, her present is a bunch of DNA results hand-delivered to her door on Christmas morning. Scully's pretty sad as a character, still wounded by the loss of her sister and the way her own life was almost snuffed out recently, throwing herself into a case to avoid the banality of a family reunion.

Christmas Carol has a great hook with the sinister phone call telling Scully to help someone, and the mystery unfolds pretty well. Marshall Sim is suspicious, sure, but the men in black surveying the scene at various moments and Scully's out-there theories that the fake suicides of both Sim parents hints at far greater antagonists at work. It was also interesting to see Scully in the Mulder position here, desperately trying to convince everybody around her that things aren't what they seem.

Equally effective were the flashback sequences, interestingly edited together with present-day scenes, and depicting various haunting moments from Scully's childhood, like the discovery of a dead rabbit to the fear of becoming an FBI agent.

Gillian Anderson delivers a tour de force performance here, as always managing to convey so much emotion through gesture or a certain type of look. Just look at that saddening scene where Tara tells the family that becoming a mother has given her newfound purpose and joy, and a barren Scully can only look on in reserved disappointment. Scully is so often reserved as a character, that when she breaks her persona and unravels at the seams, it's truly difficult to watch. A muted but undeniably powerful episode. B+

Guest stars Sheila Larken (Margaret Scully); Melinda McGraw (Melissa Scully); Pat Skipper (Bill Scully Jr.); Karri Turner (Tara Scully); John Pyper-Ferguson (Detective John Kresge); Gerard Plunkett (Dr. Calderon); Lauren Diewold (Emily Sim); Patricia Dahlquist (Susan Chambliss); Rob Freeman (Marshall Sim)
Writers Vince Gilligan, John Shiban, Frank Spotnitz Director Peter Markle

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